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MANUSCRIPTS DIVISION 2002
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James Drayton Nance Papers, 1860-1866, 1883, 1912, and undated [Addition]
Fifty-one manuscripts, 1860-1866, 1883, 1912, and undated, added to the papers of James Drayton Nance (1837-1864), of Newberry consist chiefly of Nance's correspondence with his sister and brother-in-law and other Newberry acquaintances while he was serving with the 3rd Regiment, South Carolina Volunteers. Nance was in command of the regiment at the time of his death.
Two letters before the Civil War, 17 and 29 March 1860, from C.D. Barksdale, Charleston, concern the latter's purchase of forty shares of Farmers & Exchange Bank stock. Barksdale offered to "take it off your hands" if Nance thought that $27.75 a share was too high "as I think it about the cheapest stock now."
Stationed at Camp Jackson near Richmond, 20 July 1862, Nance complained to his sister about the absence of correspondence from home and expressed pride that his unit was one of three from South Carolina "that is uniformed." Family relationships often affected military appointments, and Nance faced such a situation by not appointing his uncle's son-in-law. The uncle even blamed Nance "for the poor man's death." Nance retorted that he "would not converse with such an unreasonable man, the monstrosity of whose charges were only relieved by their extreme absurdity."
Nance was severely wounded in the leg and ankle late in 1862 and received medical leave to return to Newberry. He rejoined his regiment after recovering and received a letter, 21 July 1863, from the Rev. John J. Brantly, a Newberry minister whose delicate health prevented him from pursuing his desire to preach to the soldiers. Brantly lamented the terrible loss of life at Gettysburg. One could not read of such battles "without feelings of horror at the awful destruction of human life, and the thousands of brave men who have been mutilated and maimed for life." Writing from Fayetteville, N.C., in August, Brantly commented on the "great confidence that is everywhere felt in General Lee" and what he perceived to be a renewal of spirit among the populace since Gettysburg. He also condemned the anti-war sentiment in North Carolina, "It is a matter for shame and indignation that in this state a set of bold, bad men should have taken advantage of the recent disasters to depress the spirits of the people and to scatter abroad the most treasonable sentiments."
Nance's Third Regiment was with the army in Tennessee in January 1864, shortly after the evacuation of Knoxville. His brother-in-law James Baxter commented on Gen. Braxton Bragg's strategy in the battle, "Bragg attempted a flank movement and failed to hold the front and to hold the front is necessary always for the success of a flank movement." In the same letter Baxter informed Nance of the death of one of Newberry's most admired citizens, John Belton O'Neall, whose "memory will be cherished by thousands who differed from him on many points. His head was good but his heart was better." Baxter was planning to go to Columbia to apply for bail for John Bungle who was charged with murdering one of his slaves.
Nance's brother William F. was serving on the South Carolina coast at Mt. Pleasant. His duties there were less demanding than when he was in Charleston although he did have some responsibility for Gen. N.G. Evans' troops, "Evans is away from them, which is a great blessing." He also commented on Evans' court-martial. The enemy's artillery was inflicting heavy damage on Charleston but he did not think that the city was in danger of surrendering. He was also thoroughly tired of the war: "I wish the war would come to an end. I would be willing to let all the glory go to others."
On 27 January James Baxter related the story of their kinsman, Simeon Pratt, who had been staying at Baxter's home when it was discovered that "in plain terms he was a deserter." Baxter intended to return him to the army although "his mind is strangely affected and unappreciative." Like William F. Nance, Baxter wanted "this horrid war" to end and "then may Providence reunite us all in one family."
A reunion of the family as it existed in January 1864 was not to be. On 6 May 1864, from Chancellorsville, William D. Rutherford dispatched a telegram to announce "that Col. Nance fell in battle today - - pierced by five balls." A letter from "Near Spottsylvania" on the 16th recounted the action in which Nance was killed. An earlier letter on the 10th from Simeon Pratt to Fannie Baxter related his reaction to viewing Col. Nance's body, "I feared or dreaded to see him badly disfigured; but to my agreeable surprise his countenance was not only natural but wore a pleasing expression, almost one of rapture as of one who died with glory in his view, the triumphant expression of a brave and gallant soldier as well as a good Christian and an heir of Heaven whose work on earth has ended."
By 1865 the Confederacy's days were numbered, and James Baxter recognized as much when he wrote his wife from Abbeville on 16 February. While his personal health was good, he was "ill at ease in mind....Our military seems stupefied and scattered like partridges when the hawk is on the wing and what is to come of all this God alone can forsee." Vice-president Alexander Stephens happened to be in Abbeville and spoke from the piazza of the Perrin house to a not very enthusiastic audience. He warned her that Yankee raiders might appear in Newberry and advised her on preparing for them. He had visited Newberry recently but missed seeing his wife and child when he wrote from Abbeville on 23 March. While in Newberry he planted potatoes and planned to plant more. He advised, "My days are filled with an agony of suspense in regard to the condition of the country and...our future status which I fear the present Congress may disturb."
The collection includes cartes-de-visite of two men in Confederate uniform taken by Quinby & Co. and R.L. Steele. One of the men is identified as James D. Nance.
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